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Schools have started. But so have the fears of parents–And kids

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Here’s how things have changed a little in our society:

When I was in elementary school, my mother walked me all the way to the big-city public school on that first September day. Then one less block the second day, another the third and so on down until after seven school days, I was walking the entire mile-plus distance alone. No one thought a thing about it.

That was in kindergarten.

Now, understandably five-year-olds are walked up to or inside the school door. As the new school year gets up to full speed these days, Gallup asked parents about school safety. More than a third (35 percent) were worried about their child at school.

Can you blame them? That’s up almost 50 percent in just the past year from the 2017 finding. Personally, I’d expect the number to be much higher, coming the school year after the horrific Florida school shooting. And after another year of public argument and little action about how best to boost school safety. This worry level is the highest Gallup has found this century.

You would probably expect parental concerns to spike right after another of our now too-familiar incidents of deadly school violence. But this poll came many months later and it’s higher this year even than after that Newtown, Conn. school shooting six years ago.

Fifteen years ago some local districts began talking about banning all student cellphones in schools. At one gathering I suggested they leave enforcement of no cell use up to the individual classroom teacher, as they used to do over chewing gum and other distractions.

In this day and age I was not prepared to forfeit the newfound — and welcome– ability to contact my teenager at any given moment. That was one of my fears.

Perhaps even worse in the area of fears, fully one-in-five parents reported their children had recently expressed fears for their own safety while away at school. That’s the highest reported concern among children since 2001. Of course, it could also encompass fears of bullying on the playground, in the rest rooms and, nowadays, on social media.

The exact reasons for soaring children’s concerns are not known. But they are likely tied to saturation news conference of deadly incidents and probably to the increasing number of active take-cover drills that more schools have instituted in proper preparation for a possible active shooter.

Back in the day, such school-wide dry runs had more to do with fire drills. And, of course, the duck-and-cover exercise to let your wooden school desk protect you from a nuclear blast. Fortunately, that one was never tested.

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